Bruce Springsteen fans had a rough introduction to the world of dynamic ticket pricing Wednesday (July 20), as many logged into Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform to buy tickets for his upcoming tour with the E Street Band and experienced sticker shock at the cost of the best seats.
Those prices – which climbed into the thousands of dollars, as widely reported – represented about 1 percent of the tickets listed on the Ticketmaster Verified Fan sale, but they became a sore point for fans who felt that they no longer had a shot at great seats after years of loyalty to the Boss.
By selling high-priced platinum tickets, Ticketmaster argues, the company can prevent the best seats from being bought and resold by scalpers. That money can instead go to Springsteen. However, this only works when the tickets cost enough to prevent scalpers from making a profit.
Sources tell Billboard that early numbers show that less than 10 percent of tickets sold for the five concerts that went on sale Wednesday ended up on the secondary market – lower than average – and that despite complaints about four-figure prices, only 1 percent of tickets were above $1,000.
For Springsteen’s 2023 U.S. tour, the mean average price for most tickets was $213, sources close to the sale tell Billboard. That’s a 33 percent increase from the 2016 tour, where tickets were an average of $159 a piece when factoring in inflation. If the much higher-priced Platinum seats are factored in, however, the average price rises to $265 per ticket. That’s less than the price for Springsteen’s Broadway run, which averaged $424 a ticket, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Despite some outrage over prices, fans bought up the 75,000 to 80,000 tickets on sale Wednesday for concerts in Florida, Oklahoma and Colorado. Based on the ticket price, Springsteen stands to earn about $4 million per show – and as much as $120 million for the U.S. leg of the tour.
Some of the anger comes from the fact that Springsteen was known for setting fan-friendly ticket prices. In a 2009 letter, after Ticketmaster redirected buyers without permission to its own resale site, TicketsNow, Springsteen took umbrage, telling fans: “We perceive this as a pure conflict of interest. Ticketmaster is there to ensure that we have a good, fair sale of our tickets at their face value plus normal ticketing charges.” Then-Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff responded with an open letter of apology to Springsteen and his team, and the company later reached a settlement with the New Jersey Attorney General in which it agreed to stop linking customers to TicketsNow for at least one year.
For years Springsteen fans have said they felt that they always had a shot at buying front-row tickets for less than $200, but over the years it became almost impossible to compete with the increasingly sophisticated operations of scalpers, which deploy bots and code to buy up the best tickets in seconds. As a result, Ticketmaster, which itself operates one of the world’s largest resale marketplaces, has advised artists to raise the price of seats that would be most appealing to the secondary market.
Springsteen has yet to publicly address the controversy.